PGA Tour
By Kevin Currie, Golf Editor - Archive - Email
Why the U.S. lost the Ryder Cup
Tom Watson Where did Tom Watson go wrong this past week?
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - PGA of America president Ted Bishop and U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson have had plenty of long conversations since Bishop tabbed Watson to lead the Ryder Cup team again.

Bishop might be best served by leaving Watson's number in his rolodex for the near future.

The PGA of America selects the Ryder Cup captain, and one of its important criteria is that the person chosen is a former major champion. So long, Steve Stricker. Hasta la vista to your captaincy, Matt Kuchar.

Those two may have been important parts of the six teams they played on, but they're not welcome as a captain because they have not won a major.

Captains in the Ryder Cup can by like quarterbacks in football, overly praised in victory and unfairly tarnished in defeat.

Where did Watson go wrong this past week? Was it leaving Phil Mickelson, Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson on the bench all day Saturday? Was is playing Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker all five sessions?

Either of the above make for good arguments.

Did Watson make poor choices with his captains picks? Bradley, Hunter Mahan and Simpson combined for a 2-4-2 record.

Of course, three possible picks for Watson - Jason Dufner, Dustin Johnson and Tiger Woods - were not at his disposal. Can't blame him for that.

However, Chris Kirk and Billy Horschel were left home. If the deadline for selecting players had been a week or two later, maybe one or both is picked for the team.

You also can't blame him for his team being outscored approximately 94-under par to 74-under par. The players need to step up.

In the post tournament press conference, Mickelson openly questioned why the U.S. Ryder Cup team has gone away from the pod system that Paul Azinger used successfully in 2008.

"There were two things that allowed us to play our best that Azinger did, and one was he got everybody invested in the process. He got everybody invested in who they were going to play with, who the picks were going to be, who was going to be in their pod, when they would play, and they had a great leader for each pod," Mickelson explained about Azinger's pod system.

"The other thing that Paul did really well was he had a great game plan for us. How we were going to go about playing together; golf ball, format, what we were going to do if so-and-so is playing well, if so-and-so is not playing well, we had a real game plan. Those two things helped us bring out our best golf."

Mickelson has a point. But, you know what? When you're 16-19-4 in your Ryder Cup career, maybe it's time to look in the mirror.

Watson countered, "I had a different philosophy as far as being a captain of this team. You know, it takes 12 players to win. It's not pods. It's 12 players."

The 12 players on Watson's team left the 40th Ryder Cup with a combined record of 55-73-29. That just further suggests the captain's point that, "collectively, 12 players have to play better."

There are many sides to the argument. Is Mickelson right? Sure. But Watson also makes a good point.

Three players who can't be blamed for much of anything this week? The American rookies - Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth and Jimmy Walker - who combined for a 6-4-3 record on the weekend.

The 12 players who were fielded as this year's American Ryder Cup team, simply put, didn't get the job done.

WHAT'S NEXT FOR THE UNITED STATES?

The selection of Watson to captain the 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup team brought plenty of questions with it. Why go with someone that old? Will Watson be able to get these players to play for him? Can he communicate with them?

Those answers are for another column. Clearly, the choice of Watson, who is adored by the Scots for his five Open Championship titles, failed to inspire his players.

The possible candidates to lead the next few Americans Ryder Cup teams leave something to be desired as well.

Not that there is a pecking order for the captaincy, but this seemed to be David Toms' job to lose, and he lost it to Watson. Toms will be 49 when the 2016 Ryder Cup rolls around. Late 40s had been the normal ballpark for past U.S. captains, so he fits the bill.

Mickelson, Jim Furyk and Justin Leonard are a few of those in line with Toms to be a future captain.

When asked if he has a winning strategy, Mickelson cut the question off and joked, "No, no, no. I've been on eight losing teams."

The U.S. Ryder Cup team is 2-8 with Mickelson on the squad and 2-7 with Furyk. Furyk (20) and Mickelson (19) have the most losses in U.S. Ryder Cup history.

Furyk's poor Ryder Cup record could go against him when it comes to choosing a captain in the coming years. Though Mickelson's record isn't great, either, Furyk's 10-20-4 mark is worse.

Like the previous three, Leonard has an underwhelming 2-4-6 Ryder Cup record. However, he did drain the winning putt at the 2008 miracle at Brookline.

If all else fails, could they go back to Azinger again? Would his pod system work a second time? Mickelson and Dufner, via Twitter, more or less threw their support behind Azinger.

Looked over as a captains pick for this year's Ryder Cup teams, Horschel asked for Fred Couples, who has captained the last three American Presidents Cup teams to victory. Couples will not return for a fourth tour as captain, which seemed to be a drawback before, that he couldn't run both teams at the same time.

Really, though, are any of those inspired choices? Maybe they can go back to Billy Casper, Arnold Palmer, Lanny Wadkins, Lee Trevino or Jack Nicklaus?

Choose wisely, Mr. Bishop.

MINI-TIDBITS

- As opposed to the Europeans seven players, the U.S. Ryder Cup team had only three players with winning records for the week at Gleneagles.

- Reed was the star of the American team, going 3-0-1. His antics of shushing the crowd and yelling, "Come on!" after making big birdie putts may have been a little much for the European crowds. But what Reed did wasn't any different than what Ian Poulter has done in 2004, 2008 and 2012 in the United States.